Five Sweet Web Analytics Resolutions To Kick It Up A Notch

RevolveThe new year is such a wonderful time. Wonderful smells in the air. The world is full of hope. Unachievable things seem achievable and are being polished into shiny resolutions. World peace seems within grasp.

As we spring to action full of passion I wanted to share with you all a short list of things that will expand your little world of online marketing & web analytics.

We all have a tendency of getting caught in a rut, using the same tool to do the same things and spew forth the same data. Change is hard, even if we know that we should be executing a multiplicity strategy to win in the web analytics 2.0 world.

Before all the excitement of the new year wears out, here are five simple things I would love for you to try so that your company will have a glorious truly data driven 2010!

#1: Don't suck.

Seems obvious. And yet in our quest for ever more hard problems to solve we forget that the number one goal of every website is not to suck. Especially at the really simple and basic things.

At a recent conference there were three keynotes.

One was extolling the wonderfulness of their multi channel campaign tracking. When I went to their website it was a 100% flash website with a constrained small size where it took too much looking to click on anything and then too much scrolling to read anything and unclear calls to actions (if any). That's sucking. No amount of great multi channel tracking will save this company, they suck at the basics.

The second was about predictive analytics and how using massive integrations between online and offline databases they had accomplished some really cool reporting of data (and make no doubt the IT work done over 18 months to accomplish this was cool). Their home page is a mess. 24% of the content covers what any visitor might want, rest is the company shouting at you (in many annoying ways). That's sucking.

The third was about how to create data driven cultures and how this person had created a impressively big cross functional team across multiple countries and standardized on Omniture after a lot of work over two and half years. I did a search on some of their products and they did not have page one search listings (on Google or Bing) for what should be their head terms. (That's sucking.) They did have PPC ads, which I click on the ad for specific product they land me on generic nonsense pages. That's sucking.

I share these stories to illustrate vividly how we in the web analytics world get lost in our data and Omniture and Google Analytics and reporting and lose sight of the the basics and the customer experience.

It is important to realize that if you suck nothing else matters. Not your api driven integrated massively multi channel attribution analyzed campaign lifetime databases. That is not going to save you or your company.

Before you attempt the hard make sure that you do all the standard stuff to ensure your company has a fighting chance to win.

Here are some tips to inspire you:

  • I LOVE looking at the bounce rates for the top 20 landing / entry pages to the site. Find the losers, fix 'em. These guys are so bad they could not even get one click from the visitors.

  • Sit down with the owner of the top ten pages to the site and look at them. I mean really look at them and ask this question: "What the heck are we trying to do with each page?" Make sure there is a clear answer (and a match between Customer Intent and Webpage Purpose).

  • Check the load time of your important pages. Use something simple like: Or whatever complicated tool you have.

  • Sign up for your websites campaigns using your personal email address. See how the emails look. Relevant? Personal? Click on the links, what to you see on the landing pages? Fix!

  • Create a funnel for your cart / checkout / lead submission process. Find the biggest abandonment page. Fix it.

  • Ask your Finance department where most money is being spent on the web. PPC? Affiliate? Display? What? Take a week to segment that data and find out how to save 10% of the cost.

  • Count the number of links on your main pages. I mean count them. There are 98 links on a travel site I am looking at right now, on the page for a hotel in Chicago. 98! This is a top site.

    What are the analytics people doing if they are not helping the product page owner figure out how to kill atleast 50% of those links on a product specific page. There should be one link: Search for Hotel or Make Reservation! Do this for your site.

  • Fix the 25 things Dr. Pete lists in this delightful checklist: 25-point Website Usability Checklist.

There are so many ideas. I hope that before you go for massive web analytics glory that your use your wonderful powers first to make sure your site and customer acquisition strategy does not suck.

PS: Bonus tip: Make sure you visit your website once a week, atleast.

#2 Learn basic statistics.

The days of tools and reports simply puking data out are rapidly reducing. No longer can tools or "analysts" just puke 15 metrics on a report and hope to survive.

Web Analytics tools are starting to become smart (see: Analytics Becomes Intelligent). Data is starting to truly get numerous.

For all of the above reasons it is becoming ever more important that you are know atleast Statistics 101. You don't have to be armed with the knowledge of how to create various models or be able to jump into SAS and get naked with it. But you are going to have to know what a mean and a median and r squared and standard deviations and Z scores and confidence intervals and all that lovely stuff is.

If you have not been exposed to statistics perhaps you can take a class at a local community college or university. Many employers will pay for ongoing job relevant education.

Alternatively get one of the simpler books on the topic and immerse yourself in self education. Regardless of if you are a novice or an expert I think one of the best books to start with is The Cartoon Guide To Statistics ($13). A cartoon book? Yes. It is quite good.

the cartoon guide to statistics

Once you know statistics 101 you'll find that you'll think of data analysis differently and you'll get better at finding that proverbial needle of insight in the haystack of data. Knowledge of statistics is a key arrow to add to your analytical skills quiver.

Hello statistical significance!

#3 Try one (or two) new usability / VOC tool/'s.

My passion for the customer is, as they say, legendary!

Part of it is the humility I have developed at the powerlessness of clickstream data to answer all the needed questions. Part of it is that there are just so many darn good options out there to listen to our customers.

So this year why not try one of the newer more powerful and yet cheap usability analysis tools?

Here are some tools that are pretty cool and unique:

  • Five Second Test. I absolutely love the idea of collecting "first impressions" from current customers, employees or just randomly selected people. Within thirty seconds you can take a screenshot of your lovely home page or landing page, upload it and for free get feedback from real people.

  • 4Q / Kampyle / UserVoice. Each of these tools does something completely different, and yet each allows people to type things that you can read and be wow'ed or saddened by. Why not try one of these tools this year and truly get in touch with your customers and a real and meaningful way?

  • You are not a small enough company, or a big enough one for that matter, to do usability testing. This is usability testing for ultra cheap, $29 per person. Set out the tasks, identify your audience, test happens, you watch the video and read comments, you cry, you fix things, you become rich.

    Also checkout Feedback Army.

  • WebSort / OptimalSort. The information architecture on most website is terrible and the reason is that company employees create it for themselves. A great option to hear from the customers was to do card sorting studies. Problem? Expense! Not any more baby. Both these tools are quite affordable, all online and in a fraction of the time it would take to do a offline card sorting study you can get the key data you need. Sweet.

You don't have to do all of the above. But you do have to listen to your customers.

In 2010 Consider trying just two tools listed above that you have not used so far. I promise you that you'll want to give me a big hug the next time you see me.

#4 Try one new competitive intelligence tool.

I practically have a illicit love affair with competitive intelligence. And I am not embarrassed!

If I ever come to see your company, or you see me presenting publicly, then you have seen me present data about your company / industry and then proceed to say nice / not nice things. There is just so much gold out there to be discovered.

Here are some tools for you to try, ideas for analysis you could do:

  • / Trends for Websites. I love the depth of data now available in both tools for free (even if you use just the free part of Compete). Index your overall performance against your competitors.

    Where do people go after they leave your site? What are the top five referrers for your competitor? What are the top sites that get traffic for the word love? All free from Compete.

    People who visit my site, what other sites do they visit? What are the things they search for? What's the difference between US traffic and India? All free from Trends for Websites.

  • Google's Search-based Keyword Tool. If you have never explored the long tail for your website (if you are a medium to large site) using SbKT you might be committing a crime. If you have never taken a list of keywords AND the landing pages recommended by SbKT where you have zero impression share and given it to your SEO team then you should feel bad. There is so much here.

    [Learn how to use SbKT here: Monetize The Long Tail of Search.]

  • Google Ad Planner. Some display / banner ads stink because they are just terribly produced and blink and annoy you with sound and do insane things when you move your mouse over them inadvertently. Most display ads stink because they are not relevant / well targeted. Make sure that is not your ads. Use the Ad Planner to hone into the exact sites where you can find your audiences.

    What sites are visited by: Men who are in the market for engagement rings. Women who are interested in the NFL. Young adults who are looking to buy net books. Affluent 100k+ folks or comic book buffs or brides to be.

    Now go buy advertising on those sites (from any ad network) and earn a higher ROI on your campaigns.

    [Learn more about Ad Planner: Competitive Intelligence Analysis: Google Ad Planner]

These four tools should keep you busy for a long time. Don't go at it all at once. Ask your boss's boss what his next 90 day priorities are, find the tool above that might have the insights, go on a honeymoon with it.

#5 Identify two new micro-conversions and goal values for each.

The road to web analytics glory (and a promotion for you) runs through the Micro Conversions path.

I am absolutely convinced that we don't get the love that we deserve from our company leaders because (even if we get beyond data puking) we rarely quantify the impact of all of work that the website is doing.

macro conversion rate-and-micro conversion rate-demystified

During Q1 make it your personal quest to identify two new micro conversions for your website (many ideas in the preceding blog post).

Now make sure, and this is absolutely key, you take one more step and quantify the economic value of each micro conversion (instructions and ideas: pages 159 to 162 in my new book ).

goal conversions and goal value

That economic value will help you arrive at the number on the right, $83,848. That number will finally help you understand the complete value your website is adding to your business (only $21,454 is from the Macro Conversion). That number will allow you to measure your campaigns with a level of accountability that will be supremely awesome.

If you do nothing else on this list (I hope it does not come to that), please make sure you do this item. It is that important (especially if you are a non-ecommerce b2b government peaceful protest photo sharing website).

For the true Analysis Ninjas let me share one bonus item, one thing that will put even them above the top. . . .

Bonus: #6 Measure one thing that is "intangible".

The hardest thing to do in online analytics is to measure the intangible. How did people feel about the website experience? What was the positive brand lift? Did the unaided brand recall improve 60 days after the campaign (online or offline)? And more such questions.

Each is really hard to answer, one must think differently.

Here is a post with seven different strategies: Brand Measurement: Analytics & Metrics for Branding Campaigns.

As an Analysis Ninja go all out on three of them this year and take your business to the next level of measurement and insights.

Good luck ya'll!

Ok now your turn.

Care to share examples of sucking that you have killed on your websites? Got a creative use of statistics in your web metrics practice? Which is your favorite online customer listening strategy? Have you had success with quantifying goal values for your micro conversions?

What is your company's online, or online analytics, new year resolution?

Please share your thoughts via comments, thanks much!


  1. 2

    Hey Avinash, some very good stuff here in this post!

    I have to capitalize on #2 – Basic Statistical Knowledge. Especially, standard deviation. This is so important that if you do not know what it is, you should take some time, look it up on Wikipedia or take a night class. Knowing what standard deviation is (and how it's calculated) really will give you a deeper understanding of all things analytics – for example, the new Google Analytics "Intelligence" section uses standard deviations (among other things) to calculate significance.

    I also think it's a great idea to sign up for your own email campaigns. I think if more folks did that, we'd have less horrible emails in my spam or trash folders every week, b/c they'd see how bad they come out (some of them are really bad, too).

  2. 3

    Nice article Avinash . I agree with all of your points specially #1

    It would have helped if you could give the examples of sites that you examined.. also in future, i would love to read more on usability .

    I have put the comic book u mentioned in my wishlist, btw :)

    Thanks for sharing

  3. 4

    What a fantastic overview Avinash. You always manage to kick your readers in the seat of the pants at just the right time.



  4. 5

    I love reading your posts Avinash, you have this great way of just kicking my butt without even knowing it…well maybe you do.

    Anyway, we've just finished an engagement with Conversion Rate Experts out of the UK and they have a great process for helping a company with #3 on the list. It's worth checking out their post on the "14 free tools that reveal why people abandon your website", which incidentally has a nice link back to your blog and first book.

    Happy New Year to you and everyone out there aspiring to achieve analytics enlightenment.

  5. 6

    Awesome post! There are definitely many things to take away from this. If I didn't have children I could dedicate the next 6 months to the steps in this post. So in that case I'll chomp some stuff off bit by bit.
    The thing I love most is that you provide COST EFFECTIVE solutions that almost eliminate any excuse not to try something like 4Q or
    Love it.

  6. 7

    Thanks Avinash! These are great. I'm going to go ALL OUT on #3,4,5 in 2010!

  7. 8

    Happy 2010 to you!

    Some good tips here. Funny as #3 was already on my list and I am considering #2 for a while.

    Great stories in #1 – it is so easy to suck and fully agree that people are constantly looking for advanced stuff while they don't fix basic things. Happens too often if you ask me :)

    Off topic – I am amazed by the fact that not only your blog shows up in Google Trends for Websites but you even match some of our national sites Gives me an idea of traffic you get.




  8. 9

    This is fantastic, and articulates goals I plan to conquer in the new year.


  9. 10

    Hello Avinash,

    I always learn new concepts from your post. I love the idea of applying statistics in your analysis and will definitely move into that direction this year. Usability assessment is another area of interest this year.


  10. 11

    Seriously awesome read. Great highlight of tools. Thank you.

  11. 12


    As always,very insightful post! My takeaway from this is going be the "simplicity mantra"..stay simple, use text based content,keep listening to your VOC ( btw.. I am a fan of survey monkey but plan on trying out 4Q this year)

    Keep these precious posts coming!


  12. 13
    Brandon Klein says

    I couldn't agree more. However, I think the fundamental cause is lack of collaboration within companies. We don't hold meetings well, we don't hold conference calls well, we don't manage projects well… We don't collaborate well.

    Until we get this right- we will have death by powerpoint- statistics that live on one guys desk, and intangibles that will last forever!

  13. 14

    Joe: Intelligence in GA, and I am sure features like that coming soon in other tools, make it even more of a mandatory requirement that our ninjas know Stats 101 atleast.

    Without that it would be really hard to understand what the data is showing and, worse, realize that it is not showing.

    Andrew: Perhaps I should have been in a more optimistic mood for the first post of the new year! But where's the fun in that. :)

    Kris: I should have been more explicit, the list is very much a 2010 list and not a "let's do it all in three months" list. Some of these things take time and effort.

    With regards to tools… I am utterly convinced that no company will now fail because they don't have access to tools or because they don't have lots of money to spend. They will fail because they are not smart enough to use these tools and data optimally.

    Everyone: Thanks so much for all the wonderful comments. Please keep 'em coming.


  14. 15
    Ned Kumar says

    Avinash-that is a great bunch of tips in one post. I think the title of your post could as well have been "Leveraging Web Analytics without paying an arm and a leg" :-).

    On the topic of Statistics, I would even venture out and say that try to understand statistics under three categories.

    Statistics you need to know to understand and make sense of other's analysis (here it is more a broad knowledge of the terminologies and what it means high-level).

    Statistics you need to know to do your own analysis (a more in-depth understanding of a few statistical concepts and methods).

    Statistics you need to know to talk to and convince your Senior Management (this is more of learning to translate theoretical and geeky concepts to simple-to-understand phrases and words).

    In addition, it would not be a bad idea to do a little crash course in problem formulation and scoping as I sometimes see folks diving right into the data without grasping the essentials of what is really needed to answer the question at hand.

    Thanks for the very useful and practical info.

  15. 16

    Another great post from the man, the myth, the legend.

    Loved your lead in point: Don't Suck. If more websites focused on getting the Website 101 principals in place we'd all be enjoying a much more satisfying online experience.

    Also loved point #5: Identify two new micro-conversions on your site. I think most web analytics professionals understand the importance of optimizing each step in a conversion process but it doesn't hurt to remind people to dig a little deeper within each step of the process.

    Thanks again for the knowledge brother!

  16. 17

    Since you asked… my online analytics New Years resolution was to order your new book, and re-read the first one while waiting for the new one to arrive. :) Thanks for making web analytics 'fun' – and, even more, for making it feel practicably accessible to those of us who are not, er, naturally gifted with numbers.

  17. 18
    Sally Earl says

    I use clicktale to show me my visitors journey through my site. There are heatmaps of all sorts, real time videos and all sorts of aggregate behaviour analysis to keep me busy!

  18. 19
    Sandy McConnell says

    What a fantastic article to start the New Year. I can't wait to start using these tools in section 3 – Many Thanks again for stumulating my brain into action again.

    P.S. Can't believe I'm going to miss you in London in Feb. Are you coming back again in 2010????

  19. 20

    Ned: I think statistics of the #1 kind are mandatory for Web Analysts now.

    The #2 kind will increasingly become important (because of things like Intelligence from GA and, hopefully, soon to be launched competing features in Omniture, WebTrends and CoreMetrics). Though it is ok if only, say, 25% of the Analysts reach this level.

    #3 I think, humbly, is probably more of a communication skill. Either you have it or your don't. If you have it and if you happen to also be in #1 or #2 then you are going to rule the world! :)

    Thanks for sharing this framework, so wonderful.

    PS: Totally with you on making sure the problem is defined before seeking solutions!

  20. 21

    Hey Avinash, I liked how you drilled home the importance of understanding basic statistics. I'm going to buy the cartoon book and WA 2.0.

  21. 22

    I've seen a great deal posted regarding always following typical link convention (blue and underlined), but is there a typical button convention?

    In your opinion (or point me to someone's research if you are aware of it), are oblong oval buttons the most used action button? If users are presented with a circle as an action button or a square as an action button, does it confuse them and they consequently click less on the desired action as a result?

    thanks! I always enjoy your posts!!

  22. 23

    Juli: There is no "standard". And there should not be, the web is far too diverse. :)

    My advice to you would be to test your buttons and see which one works best. You can use the free Google Website Optimizer, takes just 6.5 mins to start and a/b test.

    To inspire you here are two articles that might be of value:

    Good luck.


  23. 24

    Great post as always Avinash – I especially like the way you "call out" bad websites from conference speakers; seems like a lot of optimization companies have the "shoemaker's children" syndrome when it comes to practicing what they preach (present company included at times).

    I plan on using your examples of poorly planned, flash-heavy websites with some of my clients who focus more on the "experience" than the message. It's often hard to articulate to clients how detrimental this approach can be to their overall success. Referring to this post might provide added credibility to my viewpoint.

    Also sending this to all of my coworkers as a "must read" – even non-analysts, because I think that they will get the most benefit.

    As always, keep it up!

  24. 25

    I'm finding that as our analytics practice becomes more matured #2 becomes more and more important. I'm finding that I am continually being asked "yeah but are the results statistically significant?" Two years ago, when I presented an analysis, I was never asked a statistical question now it seems with every analysis I deliver, it is expected that I have provided the underlying statistics that describe the numbers quoted in my analysis.

  25. 26

    We see a lot being discussed about too many links on the landing page (for an e commerce site). What do you think about just a content based site,with no ads, which is trying to sell some service to the customers by showing their expertise through the content on the site. A small analysis on these types of small to medium sized sites may help many of us.

  26. 27

    Arkid: The first thing a page should do is deliver against what the customer wants. Then it should deliver for the company. A simple recipe for success.

    Here is a blog post that articulates six specific ideas for solving that problem:

    Six Tips For Improving High Bounce / Low Conversion Web Pages

    Good luck!!


  27. 28

    Well, now you've done it Avinash! With one small section of #1, you've made me realize the extent of our web site suckage. Seriously, we should be on the biggest loser to see how much we can optimize this thing!

    Time to start trimming the fat.

  28. 29
    Kyla Cromer says

    Hi Avinash –
    I'm "between websites" right now, myself, but I really liked this post and got some great resources to explore. I would add to "don't suck" though: Use spell check. Make sure external links open in new windows/tabs so visitors aren't leaving your site. In this post there are inconsistencies in those regards. Thanks!!

  29. 30

    Another great post, Avinash! I'm really suprised by the improvements you can see with just a few minor tweaks. Since changing my blog hosting, I've noticed I've been getting more eyeballs on my articles, and a larger % of them are signing up for my emails, RSS and contacting me. I still have a lot of opportunity, but it feels good to be working towards a measurable goal and not just something "shiny."

  30. 31

    Wait a minute…
    In defense of the presenters, has anybody considered that we analysts present great work done on horrible web sites because the organizations in which we work don't yet "get it"? Some of us are in organizations where we can help people along, some of us are in a position to leave if the site continues to embarrass us even though we've worked our tails off to deliver insights that would remedy the suck status… BUT don't forget that most of us are at companies where the HiPPOs still prevail, and we have to just keep doing good work even though we can't steer the ship. I hear the exhortation to do better, I really do, but this definitely hit on my nightmare of being an incredible analyst that gets labeled as less because of the state of my employer's website. Is it not even safe to tout one's progress amongst "friends"?

  31. 32

    Hi Avinash
    Thanks for this!!
    Its prompted me to ask a question that i've been meaning to ask for a while on Goal Conversion Value.

    I've read the book as well, but for a non-commerce website which leads a visitor to a reseller/retailer, how would i go about assigning a value? Especially since not every visitor who sees the list of retailers will eventually go to one, and if they do, I have no way in determining the volume/value amounts of thier final purchase.

    Any advice?


  32. 33

    Hey Avinash,

    Loved reading this at the end of my seasonal break, it gave me a new optomism for 2010.

    I have been thinking about going back to basics on some of the terms that have so common in web analytics over the last 3 or so years. I would not be surprised if many of us spend much of our time explaining/correcting/clarifying key concepts to our customers/superiors/colleagues who have picked them up, ableit with the best intentions. People rightly want to talk about bounces, referrers or paths but without understanding the simple ingredients that define them.

    In almost all cases our concepts are simple, even if our businesses are not…enough of a hint for your next post's topic?

    Thanks as always,


  33. 34

    Great article Avinash!

    I just subscribed to your RSS feed and read this one (I had already listened to your on podcast interviews or videos).

    I hope I can keep track with all this info and suggestions. Maybe it would be not so overwhelming to get 1 task at a time: we read about it, we do it, next one.

    Thanks anyway. I'll follow your blog


  34. 35
    Neil Smith says

    Great stuff as always Avinash !

    I heard about your work at the SEOmoz seminar in London last year, and was very impressed by the work of Conversion Rate Experts Birmingham UK. Would love to attend one of your presentations if you ever happen to do one in London :)

    Keep up the good work.



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